CSULB Student Creates Virtual Choir Video
During this pandemic, there have been a variety of musical solo performances and powerful virtual choirs bringing us solace, comfort, joy, and a shared musical experience – even when we can’t be physically present with one another. But what goes into the planning and creation of a virtual choir? Mitchell Villareal, a graduating senior at CSULB recently created a beautiful virtual arrangement featuring multiple singers and instrumentalists all collaborating on “We Are the World.” He explained the inspiration, motivation, and process behind this video.
What was your inspiration for the video?
My mom is a classical piano teacher, and I have been playing from a very young age. I picked up the guitar at age 9 and learned how to DJ from my dad at age 13. In high school, I started to show an interest in music production and began recording and producing covers of songs which I posted on my YouTube channel. Throughout college, I continued to create videos inn my spare time and enjoyed frequently getting together and collaborating with some of my friends. While social distancing at home, my mom and some of her colleagues from the University of the Philippines reached out to me for ideas on a large quarantine collaboration. I immediately thought of the lyrics to “We Are the World" and how accurately they encapsulate our current situation. Once we were sold on the idea, I extended the invitation to as many of my friends as I could with the goal of using music to spread positivity and hope during this uncertain time.
How did you go about recruiting musicians and participants and how long did it take you to assemble your singers and instrumentalists?
We created a Facebook group in order to easily communicate with all of the musicians who were available and willing to participate. I reached out to the many talented individuals I know from different walks of life, some of whom I had worked with in the past. My mom did the same, and the process took about a week to fully complete. One of the benefits of arranging a virtual collaboration was that I was able to begin work on different parts of the music as each artist sent in their contributions.
Can you describe your process, step-by-step, to make it all happen?
The first step was to craft the details of the collaboration, including how to separate the lyrics into smaller parts, and how to establish the technical requirements for each participant. Once this was standardized, we sent the information to as many individuals as we could until all parts were filled and assigned. Some artists began working and sending in clips on the same day, and from there I began to work on the audio. I use Logic Pro X to mix and produce the music – this song required nearly 30 vocal tracks. I composed a short guitar solo for the song and the other four instrumentalists also provided an added creative twist to the popular song. The entire recording, mixing, and mastering process took about a week and a half, and the next step was to begin editing the video. I used Final Cut Pro to sync each artist’s videos with the music and construct the final product. A videographer friend of mine edited footage for the intro which added a creative visual element.
Were there surprises (happy or otherwise) during the process?
One of the best surprises during this process was being able to hear how everyone’s voices and contributions came together into one complete work. I enjoyed hearing how each artist utilized their distinct style to breathe life into the performance just as the original artists had done in their own ways. I truly believe that the participants couldn’t have chosen more fitting parts, and everyone sent in spectacular performances. Since the final choruses are sung by a large ensemble, one challenge was ensuring that the consonants of every vocalist lined up rhythmically, but for a choir that had never sung or rehearsed together, everyone did a fantastic job.
What has been the most rewarding part for you in doing this?
The most rewarding part of this entire project is definitely hearing about how our music has impacted others. Many close family members and friends of mine are essential workers or have been affected by this pandemic in different ways. It’s incredibly moving to know that people can come together, albeit virtually, to support one another and focus on what matters the most, and what makes us happy. I’ve received responses in the form of comments and messages from so many people about how uplifting and meaningful the video is, and it definitely inspires us to continue sharing our music. I am also incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with so many talented people, and I’m happy to play some part in helping others share their gifts with the world.
Are there other CSULB students or alumni in the video with you?
Yes! There are a total of four current CSULB students and one alumni in the video. Christianne Limon, Dylan Rugg, and myself are graduating in the spring of 2020. Johnson Nguyen (Genuine) plans to graduate in 2021, and Dana Manalo graduated with the Class of 2019.
Anything else you'd like to share about the process for people who loved this video or people who might want to do something similar with their friends or choirs?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Despite being a musician for most of my life, I was always slightly apprehensive about performing or even recording myself. It took me a few years to pick up and learn the skills I needed, but I’ve come to realize how much I’ve grown and how much I am still growing in the process. Use this time to yourself to focus on what you love to do, and definitely be proud to share it with others. Thank you to everyone who took the time to watch our video. If you know anyone who is working the front lines or is affected in any way by this pandemic, please feel free to share it. We hope everyone can find some hope or consolation in our music. You are not alone.